Friday Night Lights

The drive-in may have become as rare a bird as the whooping crane in our home-entertainment era, but, provided your tastes run to the artsy or academic, it's still possible to enjoy movies outside, at least for one night. Arizona State University's second annual Short Film and Video Festival--which kicks off on Friday, April 24, at the plaza out back of Nelson Fine Arts Center, 10th Street and Mill in Tempe--is cinema alfresco.

Twenty-five selections, culled from more than 200 entries from 21 states and several foreign countries, will be screened starting at 7 p.m. All are less than 20 minutes long. This year, the films will be juried--the jurors include event coordinators John Spiak and Bob Pece--and those judged best will be given awards.

But the real reason to go is simply to savor being outside on a spring evening in Arizona, watching some fledgling cinematic efforts, perhaps--who knows?--being present at the birth pang of a new Griffith or Welles. This year's eclectic mix includes documentaries, "pseudo-documentaries," satires, fantasies, animations and abstractions.

Probably the highest-profile selection is Walk This Way, directed by ASU/Scottsdale Community College student Chris Sheridan. Winner of a 1997 Student Academy Award Gold Medal, the film tells, very quickly and in a breezy, humorous manner, the story of Sheridan's adaptation to life after an airplane crash left him in a wheelchair.

Also on the schedule is New Yorker Mark Edginton's anna in the sky, about the use of magic in the service of unrequited love; Hitomi Asahi's light-and-shadow study Untitled (a message); David Glassman and Joseph Dunn's satirical DLBWA, about a reformed serial killer's return to the scene of his crimes; and Without You by Ryan McCullough, the youngest filmmaker represented in the contest--he was just 14 when he completed this animated work.

And, unlike the drive-in, you don't have to hide yourself in the trunk of your car if you're broke--admission is free.

--M. V. Moorhead

The Short Film and Video Festival begins at 7 p.m. Friday, April 24, at Nelson Fine Arts Center, 10th Street and Mill in Tempe. For more information, call 965-2787.